Friday, May 29, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts in the car, while doing housework, and in lieu of flipping channels, now that we're sans cable.

Here are a few of my favorites (no affiliate links or anything like that):

APM's Marketplace: I have the all-in-one, which amounts to 4 podcasts every weekday, but 3 of them are generally only about 7 minutes long, and the last is about 26 minutes. Great for keeping up with the latest in economic/business news.

So Money: Farnoosh publishes The weekday podcasts are about a half hour and she interviews those from all walks of life, but she includes some of the same financial questions in every interview. On the weekends, she answers listener questions (average 15 minutes).

Ask Me Another: NPR's other game show (I also subscribe to Wait Wait...). My favorite part is Jonathan Coulton, their one-man house band and his alternate lyrics to popular songs for their quizzes.

Death, Sex and Money: I found this one from their premier on This American Life (another fave).  I love that she interviews people from all walks of life, known and unknown, but my favorite episode was with Ellen Burstyn.

So far, all Gimlet Media shows: StartUp, Reply All and their newest, Mystery Show. Seriously, love all of them!

How to Do Everything always makes me smile. Note to Self (formerly New Tech City) always makes me think.

I think I actually scared someone when I was waiting for Sylvia one night and I got so happy with one of the segments on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me that I shouted "Yes!"  I have to reserve StoryCorps for when I'm home, because it usually tears me up.

And yes, I'm anxious for the next season of Serial to start already!
These are just some of my favorites. Yes, I'm addicted to podcasts. It probably doesn't help that nearly all of them include a promotion for another one so I just keep adding new favorites. And listening has gotten easier now that I finally switched to the Stitcher app. Now I don't even have to decide which one I'm going to listen to, I just start the app.

With headphones and my podcasts, washing dishes almost takes too little time! Almost.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cleaner Laundry

MyGreenFills reached out to me to try their products, and this was the first such request I've accepted in a very long time.

Long-time readers will know how thrilled I am now to do laundry since moving and getting my own washer and dryer. Happy as I was, and happy as I've been that my utility bills haven't shot up with my HE washer and dryer, I had noticed that after a few weeks, laundry was getting an unpleasant smell, so I had been thinking about switching laundry detergents anyway.

This is even better because MyGreenFills is committed to lessening the load of laundry jugs each household buys to just one last jug.

Instead of buying a new jug, you get refill packets and mix that with water to refill your jug. Not only that, but the packets are made with hypo-allergenic, non-toxic materials.

The same concept applies for liquid softener and color brightener and other products.

To be honest, I hope to buy just one more jug from MyGreenFills, if they fix two design flaws. One: it's difficult to see where exactly the Fill line is when you're adding the water. Two: it's also hard to see the lines for measuring. Still, I haven't noticed any issues in the performance, even if I didn't get either of those exactly right.

I'm not sure I'll be refilling my fabric softener, because I'm quite happy with my wool dryer balls.

But I'll most definitely be refilling the laundry soap. And I have not noticed any unpleasant odors from my washer (or laundry) since switching to MyGreenFills.

They will send you a jug for free (you pay shipping and handling) by clicking this link (just beware: when the page opens, an incredibly loud video starts playing so hover over your mute button).

All links in this post are affiliate links and will generate a small referral fee. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Millionaire Day (Who Knew?)

I'm late to the party, but apparently May 20 is Millionaire Day. Really, it's an excuse to think about your financial situation and how to improve it.

Some ideas/methods I've used to improve my own financial situation over the past few years:

Automate your savings.  A certain amount automatically gets transferred into my online savings account every paycheck. Whenever I'm able to decrease a monthly expense (see below), I increase that amount accordingly (which also helps to avoid lifestyle creep; meaning, increasing your monetary obligations when your income increases). While Sylvia's isn't automated, the first thing we do when budgeting her paycheck is put 20% into her emergency savings. She's tried to convince me that a broken backpack is an emergency, but I've explained to her that the only times she can use it are: in a medical emergency, in case of job loss or to pay for something she needs for an actual job. An example of the latter: when I needed emergency expediting of my passport application in order to work on the cruise ship. If/when she moves out on her own, I want her to always think twice (and preferably call me) before she dips into her emergency savings.

Pick a monthly expense to decrease. Maybe you can decrease or eliminate your cable bill. Maybe you can look for a better cell phone provider or call your current cell phone provider and see if another plan will work for you. Switching to Republic Wireless cut our monthly cell phone bill by about 1/3 (the catch is you have to buy their phones). Maybe you can downgrade or cancel your Netflix plan or newspaper subscription. I've found the best way for me to decide what to cut is being away of which bill makes me cranky.

Menu Plan. It took me forever to get a handle on my grocery budget. For me, the solution wasn't coupons or driving to three different stores with their weekly sales flyers. It was my itemized grocery budget spreadsheet. After each shopping trip, I update the spreadsheet with the price for each item purchased. When I plan the menu & shopping list for the next week, I update again with those quantities and see if my total is at least a few dollars under my budget. This month, with just one more shopping trip to go, I'm well under my monthly budget and have been for the past few months. Of course, I stick to my list, too!

Budget and Pay No Attention to your Bank Balance.  I check my bank account online every day, but I'm not looking at the balance, I'm looking at what has cleared the bank so I can update YNAB. YNAB does allow for reconciliation using your bank's info, but I don't use that and don't recommend it for those of us trying to improve our financial lives. While automatic bill pay and savings are great, being aware is the first step to changing any habit. Because the first rule of YNAB is to give every dollar a job, it doesn't really matter to me what the total is; it matters what jobs my dollars are doing. That's reflected in my budget, not my bank balance.

Value Your Time Over Money. Pinching pennies isn't going to make any of us millionaires. I've almost finished reading Essentialism, and am finding that I'm already doing many of the things the book recommends. Just as I don't spend time couponing or driving all over town for the best deal on whatever, I'm also not killing myself trying to get to place and events that I'm not excited to attend. It makes those times I do go out even more enjoyable. Having said that, I look forward to purchases that are going to make my life easier or better, like my new recliner :) Makes kicking back at the end of a day so much more relaxing! And what with a new relaxing recliner, really no desire to hunch over scissors and coupon mailers! Allowing yourself free time (or "me" time) also gives you time to dream, as well as make plans to make your dreams come true. (Necessary disclosure: link to the book above is connected to my Amazon affiliate account and you can increase my income - ever so slightly - if you purchase using that link.)

Value People Over Time or Money. As Suze Orman famously says, people first... Sylvia is less than a month away from high school graduation, and I feel like we're both as ready as we can be for that. While her working means she's gone a lot more, we still find time every week to have deep, meaningful conversations about her present and future. A lot of that time, we've talked about money and budgeting, so I feel confident that she has good enough tools to get her started. While she's at work, Riley and I also have valuable conversations about her present and future. She's got big dreams and goals, and we're putting together the best plan possible to get her there. While we all still have our pain points and unproductive times as well, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about where we are and the relationships we have with each other.

My goal, in the end, is not to be a millionaire, but to be financially free enough to pursue activities I enjoy and spend time with people I enjoy. So I guess I can celebrate Millionaire Day today by feeling rich in what I already have! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

I wanted to write something for Mother's Day, but was struggling on what to say. So I took a little trip down the archives of this blog and it reminded me of something that made me smile.

We were leaving Sylvia's Senior Art Show the other night, and had planned to pick up dinner on the way home.

I said, "what do we want?" and Sylvia replied, "equal rights." Without skipping a beat, I said, "when do we want it?" and both girls said, "now!" Nearly 7 years ago, the girls and I marched to that chant.

The archives reminded me of so many struggles we've been through, as well as the successes.

So the only thing I can really think to do is link to previous Mother's Day posts. Don't worry, there's not a post for every year! I'm not nearly that consistent!

From 2008. Sadly, most of these people don't blog anymore. Or maybe it's a sign that I shouldn't be, either! 

2009, though I'm sort of cheating because it was posted prior to Mother's Day, but still a worthy sentiment: Remember a Single Mom this Mother's Day.

2011 is short.

2012 was dedicated to my mom.

2013 is the best and worth the read.

As always, to all the moms, and most especially the single moms, Happy Mother's Day!